Are Bates saddles really all that bad?

Elno

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(Not Wintecs, but Bates specifically)

Having a youngster, as fun as it can be, comes with it's own set of problems. They grow and change shape, and suddently the saddle you had simple doesn't fit anymore. Had an Albion K2 Legend MW professionally fitted a while back. LOVED the saddle until my mare grew out of it and became an x wide (104 degrees over the wither). Bought a Thorowgood T8 dressage which fitted so and so but at least the horse didn't complain and also rode a lot bareback. This was just an interim solution though and I'm still in search of a good saddle that she hopefully might be able to have longer than 3 months 😒

At the sales yard last year she was ridden in a fairly new Bates Caprilli CC (the new, post 2009 version) and seemed happy with the Cair and it actually fitted her beautifully then with the wide (red) gullet in.

Now, with all that in mind I've been thinking of buying a Bates for her, but probably the Bates wide this time since she is basically identical in built as an overgrown connemara - low, wide withers, pretty flat broad back. I have tried the saddle (a friends Bates wide all round I think) on her and it fits, and she seem happy.

But do I dare buy one for £1200?! 😳 Because if you spend some time reading up on Bates (and Wintecs obviously) you quickly realise that people are not particulairly fond of them? People say they don't fit, that the Cair ruins their horses backs and that the changeable gullets are designed in a way that puts pressure on the withers.

So my question basically is: Does anyone actually have a Bates and like them? Are they really that bad? They seem like well made saddles and my horse seem to like and fit in them, but I would HATE her to develop a sore back.
 
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Roxylola

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I think one of the issues with air is people pump them too full and then it's rock hard. You can I think replace the air with flocking though. Personally, for that money there are other saddles on the market that go to xxw but if it fits you and your horse I wouldn't be against the idea of one
 

Fluffypiglet

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I had a wintec with cair and did hate it! Partly because I didn't like the feel of the saddle myself but I didn't like the cair system in the saddle I had. It was hard. I don't know if that is what they are meant to be like but I now have a wow saddle with flair which seems an entirely different system. Also very very adjustable when horses change. That said, I've seen Bates saddles and they are smart and if I were looking for a saddle other than Wow I wouldn't necessarily discount them? Would depend on the cair not being rock hard.
 

ycbm

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I think one of the issues with air is people pump them too full and then it's rock hard. You can I think replace the air with flocking though. Personally, for that money there are other saddles on the market that go to xxw but if it fits you and your horse I wouldn't be against the idea of one

Cair isn't adjustable, R, that's only Flair sold by WOW.
 

Elno

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I've had them in the past and had no problem with them. They don't fit every horse, though, as I recollect the tree was rather flat and that doesn't suit every horse even if you do adjust the gullet plate size.
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My horse needs a flat tree 🙂
 

iknowmyvalue

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I’ve got two. I didn’t pay full price for either though to be fair, one was ex-demo for £750 and the other was given to me for free. I really like them for him, and they suited Henry best of all the ones I tried on him. I’d always want something adjustable because I know he changes shape regularly.

Currently riding Pepsi in it too, suits him ok too but I’ll get something properly fitted when Henry is sold and I’m not having to make something fit them both.

ETA. they both have cair in them, the newer one is lovely and soft, the old one I was given is much harder which might be where the complaints about that stem from?
 

Roxylola

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Thats a good point, with these changeable gullets especially the ones you can measure yourself - people think they can adjust to fit anything but they have to be the right shape every where else. That could be some of the reason for the bad rep - my fairfax is changeable, but they dont have a measuring tool etc like bates/wintec I get my saddler to look at it. If you can "fit" it yourself people could be missing issues elsewhere and that's causing problems
 

Elno

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Thats a good point, with these changeable gullets especially the ones you can measure yourself - people think they can adjust to fit anything but they have to be the right shape every where else. That could be some of the reason for the bad rep - my fairfax is changeable, but they dont have a measuring tool etc like bates/wintec I get my saddler to look at it. If you can "fit" it yourself people could be missing issues elsewhere and that's causing problems
Obviously just because a saddle is changeable at the front doesn't mean it will fit every horse. Of course you have to concider all the other points of saddle fit as well. Gullet width is only one of them 🙂
 

Frumpoon

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My saddler explained that Cair is better likened to a very thick gel with tiny pockets of air like an Aero chocolate bar rather than the big pockets of Flair

You could think of it as a bit of a squishy step up from a more traditional close contact with memory foam
 

Elno

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I think a lot of it is exaggerated maybe rumours put out by other saddle make suppliers.
You know honestly I got a bit of the same feeling...

I also think that we as horse people in general tend to be very traditional (or at least I know I am). A wool flocked saddle is a wool flocked saddle the general consensus seem to be. Everything new and "untraditonal" - as Cair is deemed inferior and is frowned upon without actual evidence. How many horses haven't had a sore back from a badly fitted wool flocked saddle, as well as Cair?
 

milliepops

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ETA. they both have cair in them, the newer one is lovely and soft, the old one I was given is much harder which might be where the complaints about that stem from?
Poppy Webber the saddle fitter has done a few videos comparing the old Cair with the new version and it does seem different. I would consider one with the newer system but not an old Cair saddle. the other thing to be really vigilant over is that the air bags can deflate.
I think on the old wintec she took apart 3 out of the 4 had burst.

I have used several Flair saddles in the past and am very happy with those, it's easy to check the bags yourself with Wow saddles.
 

conniegirl

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Both black country and ideal IMO make better quality saddles than bates.
They are a similar price point to the bates but They hold their resale value better and are easier to sell on (important if your young horse is changing shape regularly).
Ive also found that they tend to fit the native pony type backs really well.

So they are my go to saddles for most horses/ponies

ETA most ideals and a lot of the black countrys can be widened by a saddler.
 
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Elno

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Both saddle black country and ideal IMO make better quality saddles than bates.
They are a similar price point to the bates but They hold their resale value better and are easier to sell on (important if your young horse is changing shape regularly).
Ive also found that they tend to fit the native pony type backs really well.

So they are my go to saddles for most horses/ponies

ETA most ideals and a lot of the black countrys can be widened by a saddler.
Thank you for elaborating 👌😁

I have seen a few of them on the second hand market in Sweden, and I know they are good saddles and should fit the rounder type of horses. Unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to try one yet.
 

CanteringCarrot

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I've been intrigued by the Bates Artiste and some of its features.

I did ride in an Innova a few years back, it was comfortable, but I only rode in it on a hack on some else's horse. I think the quality is ok and I've seen some second hand with flocking for decent prices.

If it fits the horse and rider, and the horse goes well in it, then it is worth the money.
 

Elno

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Poppy Webber the saddle fitter has done a few videos comparing the old Cair with the new version and it does seem different. I would consider one with the newer system but not an old Cair saddle. the other thing to be really vigilant over is that the air bags can deflate.
I think on the old wintec she took apart 3 out of the 4 had burst.

I have used several Flair saddles in the past and am very happy with those, it's easy to check the bags yourself with Wow saddles.
Ooooooo thank you! Just looked at the videos. Brilliant! 😁
 

MissTyc

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My mare fits them very well, so I have a dressage and jump Caprilli. My saddle fitter is happy to work with them. We removed the cair from the dressage one as it didn't seem to sit right but the jump one is fine with the cair.
 

ihatework

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I gambled on a barginous Bates caprilli close contact jump saddle when I saw one come up on eBay. Completely prepared to loose the money if it was a pile of trash.

Well it’s gone on a number of horses since and has sat nicely on all of them and all horses have gone happily in it. It also puts the rider in a good position and is comfy. It is going to be one of those saddles that won’t be sold on because it’s too damn useful to have around.
 

TPO

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The trees are wintec trees and curvy. The wider the gullet the more banana shaped they get. Its very unlikely to fit a flat backed, wide horse.
Was just going to say the same thing. I'm pretty sure that wintec/bates/cair as Australian designed and were catering for a typical TB shaped backs. Obviously theyve expanded their range now but their standard tree was always had more rock to the bars of the tree.

Another point was that Cair was invented in Australia where it is typically a lot warmer than the UK. There can, or at least could, be issues with Cair panels becoming very hard in the cold. So in colder months better to keep Cair saddles in a warm house instead of using straight from the tack room.

ETA I've nothing against bates or wintec. If they fit the horse well and are comfortable for the rider then jobs a good 'un. Mum had the new wintec dressage for one of her horses and loved it. I've ridden in it and exercised a few horses who had Bates saddles and had no issues.
 
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Cortez

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I've had some Bates saddles for more than 30 years, both dressage and jump versions; the ones I have were some of the first trial versions, however they're NOT the cair system ones. They are, or at least mine are, very nice saddles and fit some horses very well.
 
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I have a bates cc with cair on a tb x connie and my saddle fitter is very happy with it. Its nice to ride in as well though wouldnt hold you as much as my Albion K2
 

Elno

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The trees are wintec trees and curvy. The wider the gullet the more banana shaped they get. Its very unlikely to fit a flat backed, wide horse.
No, the newer versions are very flat. I have tried both a caprilli CC prior to 2009 and one after (made 2019). They fit VERY differently.
 

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Mynstrel

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We have bates Gp on our 2 Irish horses and we had a close contact for our TB. They've always gone well in them and we find them comfy. That said, the gp was too flat on the panel for our Welsh x tb so he's had to have something different. Horses for courses I guess but we'd have another if it fit the horse.
 

silv

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I've had them in the past and had no problem with them. They don't fit every horse, though, as I recollect the tree was rather flat and that doesn't suit every horse even if you do adjust the gullet plate size.
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This, very popular saddles here. I have had several with Cair and they have been fine.
I would say though that ones in the lower price range are not particularly good quality leather.
 
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